If the Meek Inherit the Earth the Righteous Might Destroy It
“Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes – goodwill among men and peace on earth.”
– Albert Einstein
Two of the most diametrically opposed characteristics in the human experience are righteousness and goodwill.
Righteousness has caused more wars, violence, and human shame than virtually any other dynamic in our culture. Righteousness offers a flexible morality which can be weaponized by simply adding “self.” Goodwill, however, is a result that requires the best from all of us. Usually, goodwill is an outcome of kindness, high-performance, selflessness, optimism, and love. The pursuit of goodwill isn’t always logical.
Here is an example:
For many years, one of my friends and colleagues served a very wealthy Californian family. They owned several large corporations, had vast land holdings, and contributed greatly to the community around them. Their grandmother lived a long and fruitful life. Now, she had a beautiful home in the hills with attendants taking care of her needs. One day, she told the family that she wanted a new refrigerator. They had bought one the year before so they responded with righteous indignation. They told her she had a beautiful refrigerator and they would not get her a new one.
A few months later, the grandmother’s mental health declined. Sadly, the family had to hospitalize her in a locked ward. The head of the mental health unit indicated the matriarch had suffered a psychotic break and could “be there for the rest of her life.”
They called my friend who immediately visited with her privately and then met with the family members. They asked for his advice,
He suggested, “Buy her the refrigerator.”
He went on to describe that she brought up that appliance several times during their difficult discussion. He pointed out the probable outcomes if they wouldn’t try what was to them a fairly inexpensive alternative. So, they bought the desired refrigerator. Grandma brightened up and returned home, living out the rest of her days in peace and joy.
I select this story because of its moral ambiguity. On one side of the fence, a strong argument could be made that money could be given to the less fortunate or any of countless other reasons for not satisfying grandma’s request. And, they would have been right. But goodwill is a spiritual outcome and it requires intent as well as action. It is an energy that can transcend illness, disengagement, unhappiness and more.
Goodwill ought to be in high demand these days. We have never seen more turmoil in our culture. As the careers, work and livelihoods of one era are replaced by another, we find that many people are ill-equipped to effectively deal with change. Just to be clear, they are ill-equipped to change themselves. This all too common inability to keep up with change is generating the worst employee engagement figures of all time and fuels a growing culture of outrage as individuals getting kicked to the curb by change take their anger out on others.
We have been helping people change and transform their entire relationship towards work for many years. We have been proving that individuals can indeed learn how to change their own lives if they simply show up with open minds and hearts. When this is demonstrated within 48 hours, when they have experienced transformative change, there is greater confidence they can do it again and again.
In building employee engagement within organizations, we find that we must navigate the intact teams to goodwill as an outcome by producing astonishingly good breakthroughs collaboratively and with each other. They learn there is an art to praise and an art in developing skilled attention and a gift in developing total transparency with their colleagues.
The righteous will often put down all of these ideas as “too soft” but they are missing the point. The most successful CEOs and human capital executives today are not shooting for the success of one business segment over another. They know we cannot sustain goodwill without the comprehensive success of the organization, talent, stockholders, and customers.
Today’s successful leader recognizes that building sustainable success requires transparency, active learning, respect and engagement with talent, and the humility to change one’s outlook and belief in short periods of time. However, it is the best of today’s leaders that recognize that goodwill takes a far more rigorous effort to sustain but when we do, everyone wins.
What can we do to instill lasting goodwill within our customers?
How can we produce ongoing gratitude within our workers?
What do we need to give our shareholders that would generate life-long goodwill?
Answer the questions and we will find the truth is clear and good and right. We will grow because to fulfill these lofty objectives will require humility and openness and willingness and kindness.
In other words, buy grandmother the refrigerator.
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